Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Monday, October 27, 2014
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.
It is not the role of the state, in my humble opinion, to go round telling people how they should form their relationships... I do not support two classes of adjudication depending on whether there happens to be a marriage,’ he said. ‘I support the extension of the existing system of judicial equitable distribution to the unmarried, warts and all.’
For five years now I’ve been living in unwedded bliss (well, on good days) with my partner, and currently we have no plans to change the status quo... When cohabitees separate, there is no guarantee that capital and income will be divided equally, and this has proven to be financially disastrous for some – especially in the case of women who are long-term, unmarried partners and without any property in their name.
We sorely need new legislation to give equal status to cohabitees in the event of separation. Instead of turning marriage into a political issue and promoting the idea that marriage can save families, while cohabitees will destroy them, we should equalise them in law, thereby freeing the debate to focus on the really important issue of how to make relationships last, regardless of their status.Let's ignore, for a minute, the difficulties of definition (at what point do you become a co-habitee, entitled to protection? When you first leave a toothbrush at hers? When you buy a house? When you have children?). The first question to ask is: if you are concerned about the extent of your entitlement to joint assets if your relationship breaks up, why don't you agree a formal contract dealing with it before the event? It wouldn't need to be public - just get it drawn up by lawyers (or do it yourself), signed and witnessed. Job done, rights protected. If it helps at all, there is a standard form version of this contract, that any local registrar can sort for you, for less than a lawyer would cost.
If a couple doesn't get married it's either because they don't want to, or because they want not to. Which is, obviously, entirely fine. Nothing to do with the state. But, because it's nothing to do with the state, there is no justification for the state to intervene at the end of the relationship to make sure everyone gets what they would have got had they been entitled to it. Mr Justice Mostyn is arguing that the state should enforce contracts that have, as a result of the deliberate choice of the parties, never been entered into. Without even considering morality or religion, that's a staggeringly bad idea.
Friday, October 10, 2014
But a big Ukip victory in Clacton was pretty much priced in ever since Carswell announced his defection. The second bye election, in the old Labour heartlands of Heywood and Middleton is a more interesting result. Let's just quickly look at what Labour's share of the vote there has been recently:
Labour's official line on this bye election has been that they have marginally increased their share of the vote and it was only because Tory and Lib Dem votes collapsed that Ukip got so close. Well, this is true as far as it goes. The problem is it appears to have slipped peoples' mind that 2010 was an historically bad result for the Labour party. Led by electoral kryptonite, the economy in pieces, the party in a shambles - doing basically as well as in 2010 is not an achievement to be proud of.
If Labour, as the main party of opposition less than a year before the General Election, aren't able to sweep up anti-Government votes in a bye election, what does this say for their prospects in 2015? For that matter, what does it say that they are winning 11% of the vote in Clacton - a seat where they won 40% in 2005? The picture may become a bit clearer after Rochester and Strood, but it's starting to look like Ukip are going to be the key to what happens in 2015, even if they only win a bare handful of seats.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Oh, about Scotland
The prime minister’s naive short-termism and arrogant refusal to listen to women will come back to haunt him
Although Labour must share some of the responsibility, it is the prime minister who should shoulder most of the blame. It was he who caved in to the SNP leader over the date of the referendum, giving the independence cause time to build momentum, and it was he who refused to include a third compromise option on the ballot paper, offering the “devo-max” option that he has now been forced to concede.Is mostly nonsense too. After the SNP won a majority in 2011, a referendum was inevitable. The timing of it was fairly irrelevant - as demonstrated by the fact that the polls only started to move as the actual date approached. ANd the idea that there ought to have been 3 options on the paper is ridiculous - what would have happened if the results had been 35% Yes, 34% No, and 31% Devo Max? Independence?
And why should the Prime Minister shoulder the blame for the conduct of a campaign led by Labour? The principal faces of the No campaign (Darling, Murphy, Brown) are Labour, the grassroots campaigners were supposed to be recruited by Labour - the party with the most to lose from independence is Labour. Cameron has done his bit (and his speeches are among the few memorable ones from the No camp) but ultimately he has had to take a back seat in this. Blaming him for this now is a smokescreen to hide the real culprits.
This is rubbish too:
Even if there’s a ‘no’ vote, Cameron has ended up giving away the keys to the kingdom on the basis of one opinion poll,” says a senior backbencher. “That is just wrong. The whole attitude has been ‘let’s get through today and worry about the details later’.”I'm guessing this "senior backbencher" hasn't bothered reading the Strathclyde Commission Report, or realised that the Tories pledged precisely the further devolution that is being decried as last-minute and panicky back in June following the Report's publication. Fiscal devolution is a quintessentially Conservative position, and was already part of manifesto plans.
Christ, but the childish lack of discipline from the Tory back benches annoys me.
Scotland for Aye?
Should we “camp out” or sleep at inns? George and I were for camping out. We said it would be so wild and free, so patriarchal like.
Slowly the golden memory of the dead sun fades from the hearts of the cold, sad clouds. Silent, like sorrowing children, the birds have ceased their song, and only the moorhen’s plaintive cry and the harsh croak of the corncrake stirs the awed hush around the couch of waters, where the dying day breathes out her last.
From the dim woods on either bank, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out with noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass, with noiseless, unseen feet, above the waving river-grass, and through the sighing rushes; and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness.
Then we run our little boat into some quiet nook, and the tent is pitched, and the frugal supper cooked and eaten. Then the big pipes are filled and lighted, and the pleasant chat goes round in musical undertone; while, in the pauses of our talk, the river, playing round the boat, prattles strange old tales and secrets, sings low the old child’s song that it has sung so many thousand years—will sing so many thousand years to come, before its voice grows harsh and old—a song that we, who have learnt to love its changing face, who have so often nestled on its yielding bosom, think, somehow, we understand, though we could not tell you in mere words the story that we listen to.
And we sit there, by its margin, while the moon, who loves it too, stoops down to kiss it with a sister’s kiss, and throws her silver arms around it clingingly; and we watch it as it flows, ever singing, ever whispering, out to meet its king, the sea—till our voices die away in silence, and the pipes go out—till we, common-place, everyday young men enough, feel strangely full of thoughts, half sad, half sweet, and do not care or want to speak—till we laugh, and, rising, knock the ashes from our burnt-out pipes, and say “Good-night,”and, lulled by the lapping water and the rustling trees, we fall asleep beneath the great, still stars, and dream that the world is young again—young and sweet as she used to be ere the centuries of fret and care had furrowed her fair face, ere her children’s sins and follies had made old her loving heart—sweet as she was in those bygone days when, a new-made mother, she nursed us, her children, upon her own deep breast—ere the wiles of painted civilization had lured us away from her fond arms, and the poisoned sneers of artificiality had made us ashamed of the simple life we led with her, and the simple, stately home where mankind was born so many thousands years ago.
“How about when it rained?”I do hope Harris wins on Thursday.
Wednesday, September 03, 2014
You're like Hitler!
"We run the risk of repeating the mistakes made in Munich in '38. We cannot know what will happen next," Cameron was reported as saying. "This time we cannot meet Putin's demands. He has already taken Crimea and we cannot allow him to take the whole country."Jones sees this as nothing more or less than inflammatory rhetoric:
Let’s resist the Hitler comparisons, which intend simply to shut down any reasoned discussion, to demonise all those who are not hawks, and to ratchet up tension.But here's the thing: the comparison between Putin's foreign policy and Hitler's up to 1938 is a perfectly good one. In fact, the central rhetorical underpinning of Putin's expansionism is almost uncannily reminiscent of pre-war Hitlerite Germany. In both cases, they exploit non-existent outrages and humiliations visited against minority ethnic groups (German or Russian) within multi-ethnic border states, and demand initially that regions within those countries be 'returned' to the father/motherland.
This was the modus operandi in the Sudetenland in 1938, where local ethnic Germans acted as proxies for the true guiding force in Berlin. Hitler created an international incident over the treatment of the Sud-Deutsch that led to the partial annexation of Czechoslovakia as a precursor to a full-blown invasion the following year.
Hitler also employed this technique against Poland, with the treatment of ethnic Germans in the Danzig corridor being central to the propaganda build-up to the invasion of Poland. Agents provocateurs were used, and local proxies staged acts of terrorism in support of Nazi foreign policy.
Now look at how Putin has managed his regional expansionism: he has concentrated on the "abuses" suffered by ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine; he cited the same issue as a reason for the invasion of Georgia in 2008; he has raised the same concern in Estonia. Hitler and Putin are unambiguously playing the same card.
They're playing it, essentially, for the same reasons too: the absorbtion of neighbouring states into a greater German Reich, or a reborn Soviet Union. It's an accurate comparison, and a fairly enlightening one as well.
Should it be made though? Isn't Hitler so uniquely evil that he defies comparison? As a side note, isn't especially unfair to compare a Russian leader to Hitler "after all, the Soviet Union was absolutely instrumental in the defeat of Nazism, suffering well over 20 million fatalities. In the case of Russia, comparisons to Hitler could hardly be more insulting." Taking this latter point first, no it isn't. Not only were there fairly obvious points of comparison between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but they began the Second World War as allies, and invaded Poland together, shaking hands over the ruins.
More broadly, there is a reasonable argument to be made that Hitler makes a poor comparitor: the evil of his regime overpowers more or less any comparison you could make. It's also often a thinly veiled attack on the propriety of whatever is being compared: "you know who else...". When, however, the comparison is being made with a short autocrat who manipulated the democratic process to get into power, and then abused it to stay there; and who is cynically manipulating ethnic tensions in neighbouring states in order to foment sufficient unrest to justify an invasion: then I think the comparison is just fair enough.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
From bad to worse
Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.He was doing this, apparently, to illustrate logical thinking. Which was pretty straightforwardly dumb of him for a start: if you want an argument about the application of cool reason, don't illustrate it with rape analogies. Equally, for the love of God, don't start calling some types of rape 'mild' because that really is both insensitive and ignorant.
Tom Chivers writes a fairly good piece here on why the example should never have been used. But he also makes the claim that it's impossible to determine whether one rape is 'worse' than another unless you have yourself been raped:
I'm not sure that I'm a fan of that approach. Tom wrote an excellent piece on Ebola the day before. But who is he who has never had Ebola to tell people who have how bad it is, with no reference to anything but his own assumptions, so to speak? Well, he's someone who's researched the topic, presumably read survivors' testimony, has awareness of the general topic of illness etc. In other words, he's an educated observer. If people can't make value judgements without having physically experienced the subject then the scope of discourse gets pretty limited....those of us who have never been raped telling those who have which ones are worse, with no reference to anything other than our own assumptions, is insensitive at best and utterly crass and devoid of empathy at worst.
In any event, when discussing the relative severity of criminal actions, we actually do have a fairly objective assistant: the law. All rapes are serious. Some have aggravating factors that make them more serious. Some have mitigating factors that make them less serious (although the only specified mitigating factor is that the "Victim engaged in consensual sexual activity with the offender on the same occasion and immediately before the offence" - which reads to me as being more about the perpetrator's belief in consent than anything else). But that again is almost what Dawkins was saying - the fact that some offences are more serious than others does not make those others trivial.
Where he went wrong, of course, was in talking about "mild date rapes", because there really are no such things. But then that's because he's a tit.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Tories, Tariffs and Trade
In 1846 the Conservative party split over whether it should allow corn to be traded freely or whether the merchants should be protected. The market-minded liberals, those in favour of opening up to the world, left the party.
The same fissure opened again when Joseph Chamberlain resigned from Balfour’s government in 1903 to campaign for preferential tariffs for the colonies. He was opposed by, among others, Charles Thomson Ritchie, the chancellor, who put the Adam Smith-inspired case for free trade...
The argument over Europe reared up again in the late 1980s when Geoffrey Howe, with the worst famous speech on record, began the process that ended in the political slaughter of Mrs Thatcher. The uncivil argument carries on to this day. It has to, because there can be no reconciliation between those who wish to be open and those who wish to be closed.I thought I'd written about this before, but if I have I can't find it (although I did leave a comment on Sunny's old site on exactly this point) - the Tories have split 3 times on the issue of free trade vs protectionism. Corn Laws; Imperial Preference; and Europe. On each occasion, after splitting the party, the protectionists lost the argument and either left the party or changed their views.
I find it odd, therefore, that both Collins and Blair, when drawing up the line of battle, seem to get the protagonists mixed up. In the current Tory split, it is quite clearly the pro-Europeans who are following the protectionist standard. Indeed, the parallel with Imperial Preference is pretty stark - both were preferential trade areas, supported by external trade barriers. Both were designed partly to shore up political association and partly to defend high cost economies from low cost competitors. In abandoning the remnants of Imperial Preference (the Commonwealth Trade Area) for the EEC, the Tories were switching the form in which they supported protectionism, rather than changing their view on it.